Sunday, August 4, 2013

Coldwater Cave

Yesterday, the Iowa Grotto opened their doors, er holes, to anyone that wanted to go swimming in the dark ice cold water of Cold Water Cave.  I was excited to get into a new cave and being half filled with water made it even more exciting. This is 'wild caving' meaning you are not on a tour per say but you are guided by an experienced caver with knowledge of the cave. You need to bring skills and gear commensurate with the caves severity. Common gear list includes, Multiple lights, Helmet, Coveralls, knee and elbow pads, snacks, and in our case full 7mm thick wet suits, neoprene gloves and boots. You need to be able to take care of yourself and protect the cave from damage. As a rule you don't need to touch anything, it's better to fall down then to touch something that could get damaged. This is a very strong rule but we still need access and we have to walk but we try and walk where we have the least impact. Low Impact Caving.

96 feet down this pipe is a small platform over a river. Looking down, Looking up, and the exit.

With a river we get near 100% humidity trapped in the cave and the wet suit holds a ton of heat if you're not in and out of the deeper water a lot. It isn't long before you're steaming. Everything steams. I steam, you steam, we all steam in the cave stream. This makes photography difficult because you must use flash but all you see it water vapor.

I start thinking back to when I took photography more serious and even developed and printed my own images and it wasn't long before I realize how it is to be done. POW! Below is the same picture as above right. 

This is the platform at the bottom of the pipe over the river.

The main passage flows on like this for miles as side passages drain into it.
Formations improve as we move down stream.

I'm well in front of the main group looking back.

The cascading formation on the right has lost it's source of water (died) and became stained with manganese.

Might I remind you again, we are about 100 feet underground.

This is from a 'smudged' wet lens but if nature spent 65,000 years making it, I'm printing it.

Formations have names, partly so we can talk about them but also for navigation, this is called "Big Bertha"

Above is the entrance to a side passage called Cascade Creek. It's a long narrow, hell hole that makes you regret having bones as you bash into every freaking rock. It's flowing strong with ice water that numbed everyone's feet and hands but it all pays off with a fantastic keyhole passage that goes on for ever. I regret I didn't get a picture. I was too wrapped in the moment of adventure to remember to take the time and capture it.

Back on the surface we have some last shots of the relics of years ago. This is rescue gear from 1970 (I'm told).

Below is the bunk house for weekend long caving trips. Put together by the good will of fellow cavers of the 40 years it's been accessible.

They even have technology in the form of an old manometer (like a barometer). I'm kidding of course, this too is a relic of the old days of weather forecasting. The last thing you need in a cave is a lot of rain near by.

That's the end of the pictures and the end of the post but a restart of this blog from its stale state.

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